This month’s issue of Baby & Me Magazine features the best and most stylish of children’s products in the 2014 Style Awards. They handed out awards to winners based on their criteria of iconic design, good looks and innovation (you can see the winners here).
This month they asked me to round up some of my personal favourite children’s products — the products we have used and loved in our family, ones that I hope to keep forever and pass down to my grandchildren. The products shown above are a few that made the cut. You can find my column in this month’s issue here.
Easton (aged 9) has always, since the time he could speak, been obsessed with nature and animals and especially sea life. One of his first words was ‘dolphin’ and by the time we was three, he knew the names of all the different whales and sharks! As a result, some of his favourite books are ones about the sea.
While he now mostly reads chapter books, both for school reading and for pleasure, I still catch him reading some of his favourite picture books, especially the books about sea creatures and animals. I thought I would split up his list of favourites into two groups: picture books and chapter books.
Here are some of his favourite picture books:
1. Manfish : This sweet and beautifully illustrated book tells the story of Jacques Cousteau from the time he was a young boy up through his adult life and film-making career. Easton wants to be a marine biologist when he’s bigger, and I think he really relates to the young boy in this book.
2. Zoo-ology : I have now bought three different copies of this book because it’s one of the most read books in our house (I often find it under the covers in their bed!), and I keep replacing the book due to broken bindings or torn pages. The book features more than 300 animals, each page featuring a different type: feathered, nocturnal, large, small, underground, etc.
4. Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea : This fact-filled book takes you down from the surface to the very bottom of the sea, showing you all the crazy sea creatures who live in each ‘layer’ of the sea.
6. Stuck : Another Oliver Jeffers favourite. My boys think it’s hilarious to see all the things that Floyd gets stuck up in the tree in the effort to get his kite down.
7. Small and Tall Tales of Extinct Animals : Easton is fascinated by extinct animals and by the thought that some of the animals on our planet will one day also become extinct. This is another great animal picture book that shows extinct animals and gives a brief description of each.
And here are some of his favourite chapter books:
1. The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket : I haven’t read this book, but Easton told me it’s very funny and it’s about a boy who floats and can’t control his floating, even when he wishes he could be normal and please his parents.
2 & 3. The BFG and James and the Giant Peach : Both by Roald Dahl, both brilliant and imaginative. What I love about the Roald Dahl books is that there is a teensy element of something slightly scary. I remember reading The BFG and The Witches when I was little, and being slightly scared but also totally intrigued.
5. The Harry Potter books: My mum reads these to my boys when she comes to visit. So far she’s read the first three books, and they have loved them. Quin (aged 7) can get slightly scared at times, but Easton can’t get enough.
6. Where the Red Fern Grows: I selfishly read this to the boys last summer because I wanted to re-read the story I loved as a child. It was one of my favourites! I will encourage Easton to read it again on his own, because it’s just one of those magical books, and probably best read on a sofa all alone, where tears can fall freely.
7. Tom’s Midnight Garden : I bought this book after receiving several reader recommendations to do so. We’ve only just started reading it, but Easton wanted to include it in his list and I have a strong feeling he won’t regret doing so.
Easton isn’t the most enthusiastic reader, especially when it comes to chapter books without pictures… but we’re getting there. He seems to be especially drawn to simple or silly stories, mostly featuring boys as the main character. If you have other book suggestions to share for this age group, please do so below.
p.s. You can see previous posts in this series here:
I’m back on a book kick, can you tell?! ; ) I think it has to do with Marlow suddenly becoming a little book worm. I’ve been re-discovering all the toddler books on our shelves and it’s so fun to watch Marlow as she ‘reads’ them for the first time.
Nori Goes to Bed is actually a new-to-us book my friend shared with us recently and it’s become a big favourite. It’s an adorable book about a little cat who’s getting ready for bed with fold-down flaps to reveal the actions on each page.
The book is not an easy one to get your hands on — I found a used copy on Amazon, but if you can get one it’s a great little book for this sweet toddler stage.
Quin (aged 7) had such a difficult time choosing his favourites! He wanted to choose practically everything on the book shelves, and had a hard time separating the books he loved as a young child from his current favourites now. He ended up narrowing it down… but still chose some of his longtime favourites, hence the wide age range. He has started reading beginner chapter books, and of course we’ve read some to him too, but when I asked him his favourite books he didn’t even think to choose those. I think he still prefers to read picture books if given the choice.
Here is the selection of books he chose:
1. Bill and Pete, a funny little book about a crocodile and his bird friend, Pete, (who also happens to be his toothbrush). Quin also likes Bill and Pete Go Down the Nile and Bill and Pete to the Rescue. And I only just realised that this is the same author/illustrator who did Pancakes for Breakfast, which the girls really love.
2. Little Boat , a sweet story about a little boat in a big, wide world of water and adventures. Beautiful illustrations!
4. Amos & Boris , the most heartwarming story of a mouse and a whale (I have reviewed this book before here). We also love Sylvester and the Magic Pebble , also by William Steig – I remember reading it when I was a child!
5. Beware of the Frog . I think this might be Quin’s all-time favourite book. I remember bringing it into his classroom two years ago to read to his class and the entire classroom sat there mesmerised by this book – I even had parents come up to me, asking which book I had read because their children asked if they could get a copy!
6. Puff, the Magic Dragon , which comes with a free CD featuring the famous song by Peter, Paul and Mary. The illustrations are so beautiful, and I love that this is one of Quin’s favourite books because it was one of my favourite songs when I was little and I love singing him the song as we flip through the pages.
8. Stone Soup by Marcia Brown. There are lots of versions of this story, but this one is my personal favourite and the only one my kids know. A favourite of everyone in the family.
9. Ira Sleeps Over , about a boy and his first sleepover with his nextdoor neighbour. Quin hasn’t had a sleepover yet, and I think this story appeals to him because it addresses the scared and insecure feelings you can have when you finally decide to do it. (This is another book I remember reading and loving as a child!)
10. The Three Robbers : Quin was scared of this book for a while and then started asking me to read it to him recently (it’s funny how when something is a tad bit scary, it can really appeal to children because of the emotions they feel when they read it).
11. I Want My Hat Back , which is a silly book we all love!
12. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (not pictured), a story about a boy who has a really bad day for several reasons. A great book which really appeals to boys (I remember my little brothers loving this book as well).
Please feel free to share your children’s favourites below. It’s great for me to discover new books, but also handy for other readers too.
Are your children obsessed too? We have Frozen mania in this house like you’ve never seen (or probably you have…?!). We bought Ivy this Disney Frozen book for her birthday recently and she takes it to bed with her every night. So it was obviously her first answer when I asked her to tell me her favourite books. : )
We went through the little bookcase next to her bed and she picked out some of her other favourites. Here are the ones she chose:
1. Disney Frozen , as mentioned above.
2. Hector and Christina : This is a used book we found online, and I don’t think it’s in print anymore. But we love all of the books by husband and wife team, Roger Duvoisin and Louise Fatio, for their sweet stories as well as the charming illustrations. (The Happy Lion is one of our family favourites!)
3. Petunia : This is another Duvoisin/Fatio book about a silly goose who thinks she is very wise and goes around the farmyard telling all the animals false facts.
4. Corduroy : A classic! A story about a bear named Corduroy who has been sitting on the shelf of a department store for a long time, hoping for someone to take him home. I think Ivy likes the idea that stuffed animals can have feelings and can come alive when nobody is looking.
5. Olive and the Big Secret : This is another book about Olive (Ivy loves both of them!). In this story, Olive the cat is told a big secret and can’t help but tell a friend, so she tells Joe who tells Matt who tells Lola… and the secret gets out! It’s another silly story, but one that really appeals to Ivy (and actually all of my kids).
7. Sick Day for Amos McGee : I was so glad Ivy chose this one because it’s one of my favourites too. The illustrations are so beautiful, and the story is just so heartwarming. It’s about a zoo keeper named Amos who has special animal friends in the zoo. One day, when Amos is home sick and doesn’t turn up at the zoo, the animals hop on the bus and pay him a visit at home. So sweet!
There are so many others we love, but as promised I am only listing the ones Ivy chose (maybe at the end of this series I should share MY favourites, just so they don’t get overlooked?!). Feel free to share your children’s favourites for this age range.
I thought it could be fun (and hopefully helpful) to post the favourite books of each of my children. Not the books I think are the best — the ones with the pretty illustrations or the beautiful classics we all grew up with — but the ones that really appeal to my children, the books they ask for time and time again. Sharing each of my children’s favourites will hopefully help define an appropriate age range for each book.
I’ll go in order from youngest to oldest, so let’s start with Marlow (aged 18 months)! Her favourite books are quite typical ones, the books my other children also liked at this age. Her attention span is short, so she likes books with little text that engage her with lift-the-flap features and vibrant colours, or most importantly, books with animals (we like to make animal sounds as we read!).
We’ve been reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear lately (my copy from when I was her age!) and it’s a good one for teaching colours (and animals). This was my favourite book when I was little, and it’s been so fun for me to read it to all of my kids. Here are six of her other favourites (which I think would appeal to children aged 0 to 3):
1. The Very Busy Spider : Another Eric Carle favourite! A spider lands on a fence post in a farm yard and starts to spin a web. She is visited by all the farm animals, and Marlow loves making all the animal sounds.
2. Goodnight Moon : A magical bedtime favourite of all of my children at this age. I can read this book by heart! A must-buy for any young child.
3. I Am a Bunny : Marlow loves the little bunny named Nicholas, and when he goes into his tree at the end of the book to hibernate for the winter, she always says ‘shhhhhhh’ and pretends to also go to sleep.
4. Dear Zoo : Another favourite of all my children when they were this age. There are flaps to lift on every page to reveal different animals.
5. Where Is My Baby? : Another book with flaps to lift and animals hiding underneath. Plus, we love helping the mama animals find their babies.
6. My First ABC : This is a great book for teaching babies their words. We play the game where I ask her to point to all the things in the book, and I’m always surprised by how many words she knows.
What are your toddlers’ favourite books? Please share!
If you know anything about my family, you probably know we take our pancakes very seriously. On Saturdays we make ‘skinny pancakes’ (aka crepes) and on Sundays we make ‘fat pancakes’ (the fluffy American kind). Sometimes we mix it up and make oatmeal pancakes or aebleskivers, but it’s always some form of pancake for breakfast on the weekends. So obviously my friend Sally knew we would love this book when she sent it to us. : )
Pancakes for Breakfast is a sweet little book which tells the story through pictures, no words. It’s become one of Marlow’s favourite books recently, and I think it’s because we really read it together, looking at all the images and pointing out all the funny details (and of course making all the animal sounds). It’s interesting how a book without words forces you to really tell the story in an active and engaging way that appeals to children. It’s also fun because Ivy can read the story too, without struggling over words.
The story is about a little old lady who wakes up one wintery morning and craves a stack of pancakes for breakfast. She sets out to make them, and along the way realises she doesn’t have all the ingredients so she has to go out to the hen house to collect eggs and then back out to the barn to milk the cow and then over to her neighbour to buy some maple syrup, etc. The illustrations are really endearing – we love the cheeky cat who eyes the milk and the clumsy dog who always gets in the way. A sweet book for babies and children up to reading age. Available from Amazon (UK and US ).
My mom is visiting for a few weeks and it’s so nice to have an extra set of hands to help with the kids. She started a tradition a fews years ago of reading chapter books to the kids when she comes to visit. They’ve read a few of the Harry Potter books, all of the Pippi Longstocking books, and a few other individual stories. She usually reads to them while I make their dinner and then again for 20 minutes before bedtime, and it’s SO nice that she keeps them all quiet and calm during what is normally a very stressful (and loud) time in our house. Not to mention, my kids love it!
My mom remembered a book series she read to my brothers when they were little called My Father’s Dragon , and she’s been reading the stories to the kids this week. (She bought the 50th Anniversary Edition which includes the three tales in one book.) The kids are loving it! The stories, written by Ruth Stiles Gannett in the 1940s, are about the adventures of a boy named Elmer Elevator who runs away to Wild Island, a jungle island inhabited by wild beasts, to rescue a baby flying dragon. The book includes loads of sweet black-and-white illustrations to help younger children interpret the stories (Ivy still likes books to have pictures), and the stories are short enough to keep them all interested from beginning to end. This is a great way to introduce beginning readers to chapter books — had my mom not read it to the kids, I think it would have been the perfect first chapter book for Quin (aged 7).
p.s. A previous post about books for bigger kids with lots of suggestions from readers in the comments section
p.p.s. I’m always up for discovering new books, so feel free to share your favourites below!
Ava will be four in less than two weeks! I can’t believe my baby girl is getting so big so fast… She went through a huge growth spurt the last half year, both physically and intellectually, and she’s rapidly developing into a little school girl. Sweet!
I love having conversations with her. She’s talking so maturely at times, but at the same time keeps making adorable grammatical mistakes, or is combining two words into one (my favourite Ava word at the moment is ‘clapplause’ — which she requests every night after she’s finished her plate).
Make History!, the company we know from the gorgeous Time Capsules, has recently come up with another beautifully designed product, the Little Quote Jar. A simple glass jar with an oversized cork top, with enough space to hold the (included) notebooks and pencil, and a slot in the top to ‘post’ your quote. I’m loving it! It permanently lives on our table, in close reach to us all, so we can immediately write down all the funny things we say. (And it looks beautiful!)
Dear Mom and Dear Dad are two adorable arts & craft workbooks for children that encourage them to think carefully about their mom or their dad… and answer a bunch of funny, sweet and delightfully clever questions. Kids can choose, draw or write the correct answer to queries like ‘what is your mum amazingly good at?’ (in my case the answer was: cooking, baking cakes, playing on my iPhone, drawing and sewing), ‘what does she say when she is angry?’ (‘do I have to do everything myself?!?’), ‘what does dad do when he’s at work’ (read messages / glue stuff / play games / fire people / work on the computer / etc).
Your child will create an honest and adorable mirror that will make you chuckle, feel loved, and — thankfully — feel like a very stereotype parent at times as well!
These books make wonderful gifts to both children as their parents. Sara has been working on her ‘Dear Mom’ book, and I love the results: how touching is this portrait she drew of me? (She sees me SO much more beautiful than I really am!!)
Dear Mom and Dear Dad have recently been brought out in English, but the original books are in Dutch and available through SNOR publishers. There’s a German version in store as well! And age-wise… I think these books are best for 6-plus. Unless your child can read and write before that, of course!
PS It’s Mother’s Day this Sunday (best to gently remind your family ASAP if you haven’t done so already!), and Father’s Day is coming up as well. (Hint!)
We are currently on holiday in the US, where we are 8 hours behind London time… and suffering from jet lag as a result! The kids keep asking what time it is in London and if we would be sleeping yet. The concept of time zones must be such a tricky one for kids to understand. It must seem so crazy to think that while it’s daytime in one part of the world, our friends on the other side are sleeping!
Which is why I immediately loved the look of this book! At the Same Moment, Around the World is a cute new children’s book which takes readers eastward from the Greenwich meridian around the world to the 24 different time zones. You’ll see Benedict drinking hot chocolate in Paris, Mitko chasing after the school bus in Bulgaria, and Khanh having a little nap in Hanoi, Vietnam. The book does a full circle and ends up back at the first scene having gone one full day forward. The illustrations are really sweet, and it sparks some interesting discussions not just about the different time zones but about the different people and and the things they do around the world. The book is available from Amazon (UK and US ).
I’ve discovered a few cute children’s books lately and I’m excited to start sharing them with you. The first is a recommendation from one of our readers, Sufi Sadigh, a fellow London-based mama. She wrote to share some of her favourite kiddie products, and of course I jumped on the book recommendations and immediately placed an Amazon order.
Musgrove the Nanny of Notting Hill is the sweetest little book about a girl called Hermione and her nanny rat, Musgrove. Musgrove wears giant green galoshes and reads out-of-date newspapers and together they hang around Notting Hill, go to the park, drink hot chocolate in the cafés and walk home along Kensington Park Road. Ivy and I love the silly little things they do, and I especially love that the whole thing is taking place in my very favourite London neighbourhood. : )
This is the first book in a series of other ‘Musgrove the Nanny’ books. I can’t wait to get the others! Thank you, Sufi, for the tip!
A few weeks ago Esther and I met up in Brussels to go to the new Little Fashion Week trade fair. One of the absolute highlights was meeting the super talented Italian designer Eloise Morandi. Esther had been following her and her brand Nina and the Little Things for a few years and I got to discover it for the first time. Such a treat!
Nina is a little girl who wears a red hat and a red dress, and who wanders around thinking about Little Things. Around this world Eloise has created cards, art, games, rag books, flip books and bags which you can have a look at in the online shop. I am sure there is much more to come! Have a peek at Eloise’s blog – it is so fun to see a designer having a great time playing around with her creations!
My son came home from a play date at a friend’s house the other day and all he could talk about was how his friend had a super cool journal that you are meant to wreck (!!) with funny things to do on each page!! Luckily we tracked it down in our local art store, and now he’s the extremely proud owner of his very own copy. He loves it so much, he has taken it everywhere with him for the past week, and of course my younger son became so envious of his journal that we had to go back and get him one as well!
Wreck This Journal is the coolest arts & crafts book I think I’ve ever seen! Author Keri Smith encourages kids to engage in “destructive” acts like poking holes through pages, adding photos and defacing them, painting with coffee, colouring outside the lines, sticking fruit stickers to a page, and loads of other funny and creative activities. My boys think they’re being so ‘naughty’ by following the book’s rules. It is hilarious!
I’m definitely ordering a whole bunch more for birthday gifts, and I’ve just seen that Keri Smith has loads of other similar type books as well.
We are big fans of the beautiful paper-cut maps of Famille Summerbelle, so we can only love this new line of notebooks that were released today. Featuring the famous World Map and the cities of London, Paris, New York City and San Francisco, they are just perfect to plan your next city trip, or use as a stylish destination for your daily scribbles. Just lovely!
My kids (and I!) have had the best of fun this last week with the clever mix & match sketchbook by DEUZ. Basically this is an ordinary blank sketchbook, but the centre of the page is perforated so you can easily ‘cut’ your drawing in half, and thus create your own crazy animal combinations. What a great idea!
There are two varieties to choose from: ‘Wolf‘, or ‘Characters‘. We’ve been drawing up horse-fish, pig-birds, dino-ants, and more fantastic animals in the ‘Wolf’ sketchbook. So cool! I’m definitely going to order more for gifts.
(A little tip: it helps to indicate the ‘thickness’ of the animal beforehand, so your doodles line up once separated.)
I recently ordered a book of Marlow’s first year – an entire book of her photos from the day she was born until the day she turned one — and it just arrived! Oh my gosh, you should see the way Marlow carries around this book!! She loves it! She keeps pointing to all her baby photos and saying ‘baby’ and kissing every page.
Making the books is super easy. You just have to sync your Instagram account to your account on Blurb and it automatically fills in the pages with photos. If you don’t want to use the autofill feature, you can select your own photos from Instagram and then place them onto each page. So easy! I’m definitely going to order more!
Sycamore Street Press is a family run paper company that you might remember from the exquisite Baby Milestones Cards I reviewed a while ago. It is run by husband and wife team Eva and Kirk Jorgensen, who raise their two gorgeous kids together and come up with the most beautiful letter-pressed and printed designs. I love their original birthday card collection — so playful and fun!
Sycamore Street Press is giving away a $100 gift voucher to the winner of our second gigantic give-away. What a great prize to win, together with 15 other awesome prizes! You can enter this give-away HERE. (If I were the winner, I know what I would choose from Sycamore Street Press: the citron, poire and pomme letterpress art prints — so pretty!)
My kids (and I) love the book Iggy Peck, architect, so when Andrea Beaty wrote a sequence called Rosie Revere, engineer, expectations in our household were high. And Rosie did not disappoint! The main character, Rosie Revere, dreams of becoming an engineer, but is very insecure and practises her skills in secret in the attic. Until one day her great, great aunt Rose comes for a visit, a clever lady who used to build airplanes a long time ago. Together, they overcome Rosie’s insecurities…
As you might have noticed Esther, Courtney and I quite like to blog. In fact, it was Courtney who introduced me to the concept of blogging way back when our eldest kids where only a couple of months old. Since then, we started Babyccino, but have also continued our personal blogs documenting all major events in our family lives for about 8 years now. It’s fun to browse through our personal blog, but I suddenly realised the other day that, though I had spent a lot of time documenting our lives, there was no physical photos for my kids to look at. Everything was virtually kept on the world wide web. What happens if suddenly blogspot ceases to exist? I literally would have nothing!
I did a bit of research and found that you can now print your blog and make it into a book, in my case all 8 years worth of photos. It was the best Christmas present for my children! They have spent hours looking through the book and discovering themselves as babies. The photos are not the greatest quality and I cringe at the silly little sentences I wrote to go with the blog posts, but this book really is special.